Student Well-Being

Role of H.S. Sports Subject of Study

By David J. Hoff — January 17, 2006 1 min read
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Efforts to overhaul high schools are leaving out an important question, according to one national group: How should interscholastic sports be changed to support schools’ academic missions?

“No one has looked at co-curricular activities in general or athletics in particular,” Brenda L. Welburn, the executive director of the National Association of State Boards of Education, said last month at a news conference in Washington.

To answer such questions, NASBE is launching a three-year effort to study a wide range of issues related to athletics’ role in the 21st-century high school. The $1.4 million research project will investigate, for example, the impact that participating in a sport has on students’ grade point averages, and whether athletes receive favorable treatment from teachers. It also will try to quantify the long-term academic outcomes of high school athletes.

The Alexandria, Va.-based group will work on the project with the National Collegiate Athletic Association and the National Federation of State High School Associations. NASBE has won a $470,000 grant from USA Football to pay for a third of the project.

The Vienna, Va.-based USA Football was founded in 2002 by the National Football League and the NFL Players Association to promote the game among recreational players of all ages.

NASBE is working to raise money to pay for the rest of the project.

In 2004, NASBE issued a report saying that an overemphasis on sports can undermine a high school’s academic mission. (“H.S. Athletics Out of Bounds, Report Warns,” Oct. 27, 2004.)

Once the current research is completed, Ms. Welburn said, NASBE plans to draft a series of recommendations for its members on how to change their policies on athletics.

Right now, there is “significant fragmentation” in state policies governing interscholastic sports, she said.

“Our members have the policy authority to bring about real change,” she said of the state school board members who belong to NASBE.

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